Remarkable year for Australian forest industry -
Commitment to forestry sector, now and into the future
2017 has been a remarkable year for the Australian forest industry and I congratulate everyone involved in every aspect of the supply chain. It is a growing industry that delivers economic, social and environmental outcomes and benefits for the Australian community – and is continually improving, developing and innovating.
The volume and value of logs harvested in 2016–17 hit record levels with 32.8 million cubic metres of logs harvested worth $2.5 billion. All of this by an industry that directly employs over 67,000 Australians and makes an annual $23.6 billion contribution to our economy.
One of the drivers for success is how well the industry is able to innovate, from growing wood in plantations and sustainably managed native forests, through to providing finished products on the shelves and in our homes.
To support innovation in the forest products area we’re delivering on the Coalition’s election commitment to provide $4 million to establish the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation. We’re launching the Mount Gambier and Launceston hubs this month, and I’m delighted the South Australian and Tasmanian governments are contributing substantial funding and resources to this important initiative.
The institute complements our ongoing investments in forestry innovation through funding for research and development undertaken through Forest and Wood Products Australia. In 2016– 17, an investment of over $5.6 million in matching funding has been made in research that will benefit all aspects of the forestry industry and the broader Australian community.
The Coalition’s commitment to 20 year rolling extensions of the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) was realised for the Tasmanian RFA in August this year. The Prime Minister and Premier of Tasmania jointly signed and announced the extension in Launceston and were delighted to support this ‘renewable and sustainable’ industry. The independent review for the Western Australian has been completed and public consultation on the Victorian and New South Wales RFAs is being undertaken. The engagement of stakeholders in the review, improvement and extension of these agreements is vital to ensure they continue to be robust and fit for purpose.
In August, I announced the government had approved a new Plantation Forestry Method under the Emissions Reduction Fund. This recognises the important contribution this sustainable industry can make to reducing our carbon emissions, and meeting our commitments under the Paris climate agreement.
Together with state and territory ministers, I released a Forestry Ministers Statement in September that clearly illustrated our strong support for Australia’s forestry industries. This statement recognises the significant contribution that the forestry industries make to regional Australia both today and into the future.
In addition to supporting our domestic forest industries, our government is committed to tackling the trade in illegally logged timber. In October, I announced that we are improving our illegal logging laws by cutting red tape for our importers and processors and slashing regulatory costs by more than $4 million annually. These changes will acknowledge that timber products certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes meet our requirements for best practice forest management and chain of custody standards
Looking ahead, the ‘soft start’ to our illegal logging laws close at the end of this year and from 1 January 2018 businesses and individuals must comply with the due diligence obligations or face financial penalties. I encourage all importers and domestic processors to familiarise themselves with their obligations.
I would like to end on one of the highlights of 2017. Many of you would recall the announcement made by Prime Minister Turnbull about the development of a new government plan for Australia’s renewable timber and wood-fibre industry. This statement, made during the keynote address the Australian Forest Products Association gala dinner in September, highlights the Coalition’s commitment to Australia’s forestry sector, now and into the future. The plan will build on the important report developed by the Forest Industry Advisory Council. We will be undertaking targeted consultation over the next four months and I’m looking forward to delivering the plan in the second half of 2018.
I look forward to 2018 being an even better year for our sector and wish you all every success.
■ Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.